Having just returned from the UK after commentating on The Ashes Test matches at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, I was reminded of the wonderful experiences professional sports people have touring the world in their given sport, playing at different venues and taking in different sights, sounds, smells and emotions these grounds can provoke.
For me, playing at a different ground for the first time represented a lot of nervous energy and excitement. You don’t know how the crowd will be, how the pitch will play or how it will look as you peer back at the stands from the middle.
Each ground has different traits. Whatever the initial emotion, striding to the crease confidently on match day and scoring a century forever made you feel in sync with the ground and it was amazing how returning to that ground for the next tour promoted further success. However, the opposite is also very real, and after witnessing an Aussie hammering at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge I doubt the players will ever want to return!!!
It got me thinking, where were my favourite grounds? I’ve seen a few in my time but here’s my top five.
“The Home of cricket”! Need I say more. This is THE ground where every international cricketer wants to play and perform well. To get your name etched on the honours board after a century or five-wicket haul is the ultimate dream.
My first tour was the 1993 Ashes. Just making the squad was a boyhood dream come true. But having debuted at Old Trafford in Manchester I now, in only my 2nd Test, was arriving at Lords to play on the hallowed turf! I remember it like it was yesterday. The bus drops the team off at the Grace gates (named after English batsman WG Grace) and then it’s a short walk to the Pavilion in amongst MCC members wearing their bacon and egg ties, jackets, undies probably! The Pavilion is a beautiful old stand housing the best dressing rooms, food, and showers in world cricket (very important).
The walk out to bat is very special. You come out of the dressing room, down two flights of stairs and then enter the Long Room. There’s a distinct smell of cedar wood and the walls are covered with famous cricketer portraits. From the back left hand door, you navigate to a central doorway out onto the ground, in and around MCC members who can’t help but have a little word to you, “See you in five minutes old boy!”, “Good luck….you’re going to need it”. MCC members sledging! It’s good stuff!
Once in the middle, being overcome by nerves is a genuine possibility. At this stage, it’s all about deep breaths and just taking in the unusual atmosphere. The sounds are different at Lords, there is chatter and the occasional clap or boisterous individual, but what strikes you is the quiet. At capacity, 28,000 people go silent for opening deliveries. It’s eerie and quite off-putting really. You can hear the sound of your heart beating. All other crowds go ballistic for the opening overs. Fortunately I was able to bat for a lot of my first day there, enjoying the ultimate Lords experience. Being in the crowd even just once, is a must for every cricket spectator.